A Connecticut jury has ordered Alex Jones to pay nearly $1bn in damages to people who said they have suffered as a result of the rightwing media figure’s claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.
Jones has falsely claimed for years that the 2012 school massacre, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed, was a plot staged by anti-gun activists and that victims’ families were actually actors.
Some of these families have sued Jones, arguing that they have suffered abuse and death threats, and that he has profited by spreading lies.
Jones was on Wednesday ordered to pay a total of $965mn in damages to the families of eight victims and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting, the culmination of three weeks of testimony during which plaintiffs described being harassed by people who believed the lies Jones told. “Every single one of these families was drowning in grief, and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them,” lawyer Chris Mattei told the jury.
On Wednesday, Jones told listeners of his media platform, InfoWars, that there “ain’t no money” to pay the damages and that he will appeal. Earlier this year, companies owned by Jones filed for bankruptcy.
“You think that Alex Jones has a billion dollars, he doesn’t have a billion dollars,” InfoWars host Owen Shroyer told listeners on Wednesday. Jones’s lawyer, Norm Pattis, said on the show: “Haters are gonna hate.”
The lawsuit alleged that InfoWars used the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory to gain listeners and make money, presenting evidence that sales of diet pills and other products rose after Jones began discussing the shooting.
Jones admitted during the trial that the Sandy Hook shooting was real, but he also lashed out during questioning. “I’ve already said I’m sorry, and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” he told the court last month.
The damages will be divided between the relatives of Sandy Hook victims who sued and the FBI agent who was also harassed.
Jones has been found liable in three lawsuits filed in Texas and Connecticut because he failed to provide documents, including financial information, requested by the court. Trials are being held to decide how much he should pay in damages.
In August, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50mn in damages to the parents of one of the children killed. Jones still faces one more trial in Texas.
Despite being banned by social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook, InfoWars has continued to attract millions of viewers. The company drew 7.3mn visits to its website in the last month, according to data company Similarweb.